Past Event

Dilbert: As relevant today as in the beginning?

It is hard to believe that Dilbert, the comic strip character who embodies white-collar office micromanagement, will soon turn 20. But the bespectacled, wry-humored little engineer captured all too well the corporate culture that has come to symbolize the U.S. workplace and all its dysfunctions. Perhaps we see Dilbert in ourselves, frustrated by and caught up in all the ridiculousness of the cubicle lifestyle that gets played out everyday in corporate settings large and small.

To commemorate Dilbert’s 20th anniversary publisher Andrews McMeel will release next week a 576-page $85 hardcover titled "Dilbert 2.0: 20 Years of Dilbert." It encompasses the full scope of corporate zaniness that made Dilbert a comic-strip sensation. Who can’t identify with Dilbert and the colleagues who have spawned an animated TV series, computer game and countless Dilbert merchandise items? There’s Wally, the cynical engineer with no sense of company loyalty; Alice, the token overworked female engineer; Ratbert, the simpleminded optimist, and The Boss, the uncaring, disdainful middle manager.

In some newspapers, the strip runs in the business section rather than the comics section, signaling its spot-on ability to portray the realities of work life. And who can’t relate to some of more memorable quotes from the strip:

  • "63% of all statistics are made up…including this one."-Dogbert
  • "And bring me a hard copy of the Internet so I can do some serious surfing."-Dilbert
  • "When did ignorance become a point of view?"-Dilbert
  • "In order to boost productivity, the company has decided that employees can not use e-mail on Fridays."  – The Boss
  • "I’ve decided to become indispensable to the company. Indispensable employees can get away with outrageously annoying behavior."  – Wally

Once asked to explain Dilbert’s popularity, the strip creator Scott Adams said, "It’s a whole range of things. Some people are just looking at it and saying, ‘This is just like my workplace, he’s talking about me.’ "

Why have we embraced Dilbert’s world? What makes corporate culture both dysfunctional and the source of our livelihood? Can you see parallels between the recent meltdown in the corporate financial industry and the malfeasance, mismanagement and other themes explored in Dilbert? How is it that we can laugh at the foibles in Dilbert’s world, knowing our own workplaces may not be far removed from his? Has this strip empowered you to seek changes in the way your company operates?

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